Tag Archives: motivation


Today’s lesson is courtesy of Facebook. The lesson is that “life isn’t about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.” I love it, and I am all in. As I look at my life, it is not even about creating … Continue reading

Head games: moving forward even when you don’t want to.

Who cares about one more post from an ever-happy, always-productive blogger?  Not me.  Who needs to know that sometimes, even the best of us has a bad day?  Now that’s what I’m talking about!  Well, right now, that describes my situation.  So today, boys and girls, I am going to share a little about what I am doing instead of being super-motivated, hyper-productive, and, in the sage words of Clark Griswold, “hap, hap, happy.”

If you only have a minute to read this, I will give you the executive summary version: get over it because its all mental.  I control my mind, therefore I control how I handle, and respond to, every situation.  But the bottom line is that no matter how great you are, you are going to have tough days.  The secret to moving past these moments is simple.  Apply some mental energy.  As gospel recording artist, Donnie McClurkin sings, you can fall down.  You just have to get back up.  And as much as I am writing this knowing others will read it, I am really saying it to myself, because I need to get back up.  See, what you are witnessing, is me.  Giving myself The Talk.  Getting myself in gear to do more, do better, and not fall into a counterproductive pit of excuses and pity.

  1. Do Something!  Often, we are so overwhelmed by the growing mountain of tasks we have to wrestle, we lose our focus and motivation before we even have a chance to be awesome.  As a friend and I were discussing this morning, you need to know whether you will respond better to doing the most odious task first, or the simplest.  Either way, when you look back on it, you will feel some satisfaction at having done it.  And more importantly, you will have done Something that moves you closer to completion on a project, pushed an idea forward into implementation phase, or simply set the agenda – and tone – for the rest of your day, the rest of your team or staff, the rest of your family.
  2. Congratulate yourself on accomplishing Something.   Pat yourself on the back.  Come on, you can do it. if you need more encouragement than this, you should sincerely take a vacation, re-center yourself, and enjoy yourself a little more.  I am not qualified to address that issue, but please see someone about it soon.
  3. Build a list of several Somethings you need, or want, to get done.  There, you tricked yourself intro building a road-map that will help you navigate through the forest of useless, time-wasting busy work you could be doing instead.  You are already being productive.  Don’t take your hands off the handlebars now, but “look Ma, I’m doing it by myself!”
  4. Take a break.  You have earned it.  If it lasts more than 10 or 15 minutes, you’re not taking a break, you are chilling.  That is counter-productive.  Stop it.
  5. Do Something Else.  Remember that list you built, way back in the halcyon days of Task 3?  Now you get to use it!
  6. Repeat!  Finish with self-congratulatory, but quiet golf clap, and go do something fun!

Control yourself already!

I guarantee I can make you happy . . .

Okay, well, actually even if I tried; even if I wanted to; even if I knew how, I could not do or say anything to give you happiness.  But I still guarantee I can make you happy.  How?

You need to learn where your current emotional set-point is, then work from there to increase it (you normally blow off everything emotional) or lower it (every little challenge or disturbance to your world causes you to nearly self-destruct), and then maintain it.

Your goal should be to reset your emotional balance at that point where the small negative stuff, like disagreeing with a coworker or being angry your boss didn’t choose your plan to implement, doesn’t create negative tidal waves that push your bad attitude into other aspects of your life.  And when something significantly challenging happens, you don’t allow yourself to become dysfunctional, self-destructive emotionally, or consistently negative and unproductive.

But how?


Back to the regular program:  You need to take control of your emotional set-point, work on being satisfied with “enough,” and recognize how to attain emotional neutrality or balance.  This concept appeals to me as an astrological Libra, as I seek constant balance.  That is as far as my appreciation for the zodiac system, or whatever its called, goes.  But back to the good stuff!


The first step to a healthy ESP is to learn to be satisfied with the basics.  Recognizing that our needs are easily confused with our wants is important.  We need shelter.  We want a four bedroom, three bathroom showpiece filled with the finest furniture and amenities Ethan Allen and Best Buy can deliver.  These wants become emotional crutches that serve as surrogates for internal peace.  That’s why attaining them never makes us happy.  Don’t let your checking account be in charge of your emotional set-point.  You may have to record this statement, play it back during your sleep, and accommodate it subconsciously.  It is a bit much to digest when your ego is on guard.

We are never content to have a good income that can, with careful management, provide for our family.  We want a braggadocios title, replete with one-upsmanship-inspired job descriptions; an expense account fit for a king; and access to all the most important people.  We need to think more about how our work can improve someone else’s condition, and less about how important we seem to our peers.

I am reminded of the now-familiar tale of the old lady whose greatest desire was for her loved ones to have . . . enough.

If you can first convince yourself that you should seek only enough, rather than enough to make you happy, you’re halfway home.  The next step is to convince yourself that you are in charge of you.  Not just where you go, and what you wear to school or work.  Not even who you date or marry.  I mean assign yourself as trustee, owner, boss, sole proprietor of your mindset and attitude, and thereby fully responsible for your happiness, or better yet, joy.  Now your ESP is nearly yours!


The notion that emotions are as controllable as your daily clothing choices is frightening.  Its frightening because it forces you to be the sole owner when things become unbalanced.  All of a sudden, instead of using a tough situation as the scapegoat when you choose to react negatively to external forces, you have to remind yourself you can choose to be rational and in-control, or you can choose to be unproductive, and emotionally irrational.  You also choose whether you are resilient and regroup appropriately, or leisurely wallow in your pity. YES, you choose!

The ESP model says when you take control of your sense of well-being and are have a rational outlook on things, and your life is relatively normal, you are allowed, even EXPECTED, to be happy.  Yes, HAPPY.  Not okay.  Not fine.  Not alright.  Happy. Say it three times and you will probably evoke mental images of sunshine and puppies.

Seriously, though, medical conditions like depression excepted, there are few reasons that most Americans should exist consistently in a state of anxiety, despair, or fretfulness.  Convince yourself to enjoy most moments when you are not literally under attack or fear of physical harm.  Value who you are, where you are, and give yourself permission to enjoy the bounty of enough.

Save those stronger emotions for times when there’s something to worry about, like your performance review, an IRS audit, or whether Louis Vuitton is ever going to change its “destroy rather than discount” policy.  In those cases, allow yourself to emote briefly, but then remind yourself to return to your balanced set-point.  Much like your body reacting to a strong stimulus, like being chased by a mad dog, or nearly hit by an unwieldy vehicle, save your emotional adrenaline for instances when you need extraordinary bursts.  But know it should drift back to neutral ESP once the threat of real harm subsides.

It occurs to me that our national preoccupation with being tired and perpetually over-caffeinated is the result of allowing our emotional set-points to be so constantly ignored, we can’t function without artificial stimuli.  But that’s a musing for another day.

But on a daily basis, your home, your car, your job, your significant other, your bills, your volunteer commitments should not cause you consternation.  If they do, you must analyze how to become at peace with those things, or change them until you find that peace.


Since you’re CEO  of your ESP now, what do you do?  Wallow?  No, you work on balancing the ledger daily.  Look at the stuff costing you emotional currency.  Then fire the ideas and obligations that lower your sense of peace and balance.  Let them go, and don’t look back.   If it doesn’t help you, it hurts you.  There’s no room for ambivalence when it comes to your happiness.

Changing different variables that influence you until you are relatively at peace with what you already have is life-altering.

Did you hear me?  Creating peace in your life is your responsibility and it is life-altering.

You should now recognize that small problems require only small, quick reactions before regaining your emotional balance, that place called your ESP.  The previously-constant drains on your ESP (you know who and what they are) will leave you emotionally bankrupt in times of true emergency, like deaths of loved ones, illnesses, and other crises that are also a natural and expected part of life.  If everything causes you to react urgently, how can you possibly have enough strength to properly face, then rebound from, the real crises?

You now recognize that you have enough, and probably more than enough to live fully.  You also have taken ownership of how you respond and react to external influences.  So what’s next?  There’s only one more small thing.


Everyone loves a good homecoming.  As you practice the never-ending art of managing your ESP, you will get much better at emotional homecomings.  I mentally re-set to my natural, balanced ESP almost automatically except under the absolute most-demanding and trying circumstances.  And just like literal trips back to your home, getting back in balance is comforting.  Once you own your emotional set-point; have established one that works well for your sense of peace, happiness and balance; and know when to apply a little or a lot of correction, you will enjoy life more.  It does not mean you will never face challenges.  Life is a challenge!  It means you will deal with them, and life, better.

In closing, I am reminded of the tale of a little boy who was asked to tell his class what he wanted to be when he grew up.  When he replied, “happy,” the teacher was dismayed that he did not understand the assignment.  When she corrected him, and said the assignment was to talk about his goals, he wisely answered, “no, you don’t understand life.”

Part III: Snowballing

This is the third post in a week-long series focusing on Danny Meyer’s book, Setting the Table. For information on ordering Meyer’s book from Amazon, see my July 28 post.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Meyer by now should be clearly recognized as more than a foodie with a dream of opening a restaurant with nary a business skill.  He is a visionary in the food, management and common sense arenas, and his book has satisfied much more than my gustatory needs.

But tonight, as this series enters the home stretch and I prepare to seek my next writing project, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight three points that gain momentum, each building on the previous point’s orbit, avalanching toward success.


First is Meyer’s “constant, gentle pressure” maxim.  As a manager of people with vastly different styles and strengths, I frequently find the need to apply correcting force to redirect, slow or undo challenges created by individuals pursuing their own vision instead of the one we built together (goals).  Or more often, they misinterpret the path of greatest promise in favor of the familiar.  Its easy to let “being perfect” get in the way of “being great.”

Meyer’s clarifying point really resonated with me.  It had not occurred to me that correcting the same issues repeatedly might just be normal.  I saw it as a flaw in my managerial DNA, and often wondered how to correct it.  I find it much easier to sleep at night knowing that my “daytime deja vu” is a byproduct of  different people and personalities mashing their own interests together.

One personal weakness I discovered was my willingness to “negotiate” . . . OK, soften, my vision.  My reasons were noble, but also a mixed message for staff who were committed.  I may have been too accommodating of voices that slowed progress by insisting that doing things the old way kept us from alienating the minority who valued those methods. I was trying to manage concerns that too much change, too quickly, would destroy what commitment to a sharply different set of priorities and principles I had built within the team

Where we once relied on staff to try to meet engagement goals, I wanted to focus on voluntary self-governance by, and constant feedback from, our constituents.  Where we once allowed monotonous, cookie cutter programming, I wanted to spice things up with a constantly-changing set of satellite events around the center of our universe — traditional alumni programs.  Where we previously found reasons to aim low and succeed at achieving that level of performance, I chose to give each staff member the opportunity to maximize his or her strengths.

But on one important count, I sacrificed the force with which I demanded constant commitment to my vision because those other changes compelled me to allow staff to weigh heavily in how quickly they transitioned to the new lexicon, the new pace of play – to use golf parlance, and to a new leader.

But after spending three years of applying gentle pressure, Meyer’s insistence that all three components are essential, I am committed to applying that gentle pressure more consistently.  I am more excited about this personal development goal than you can imagine.


The second point in this cascading roll toward growth is Meyer’s mentor — and my favorite character in the book — Pat Cetta.  He very visually and succinctly helped Meyer understand a critical aspect of managing people and priorities: re-centering the salt shaker.  Instead of describing it here, I encourage you to seek out Setting the Table, and feast on the wisdom and wit of Pat Cetta that is sprinkled throughout the book.  I will simply say this: its the managers job — the art of his or her job, in fact — to constantly re-focus staff on the single vision.   This leads naturally to discuss of creating the vision, hiring people who buy into the vision, and assuring that you constantly refine the recipe for success while allowing the essential success factors intact.


Finally, but most importantly, I emphasize commitment.  Tenacity.  Stick-to-it-iveness.  Grit.  Mental toughness.  Guts.  All the components of moving a career forward, especially for entrepreneurs, can be measured on paper, assigned a monetary value.  Overhead and fixed costs are known quantities, labor costs, marketing costs, even the highly volatile raw materials costs can be assigned a value within a tight margin of error.  The single variable that MasterCard would call “priceless” is commitment.  Many business start-ups have failed chiefly because the owner was more interested in owning a business than he or she was committed to making the vision real.

My favorite demonstration of the difference between commitment and interest is the story of the pig and the chicken deliberating whose role was more important in preparing breakfast.  As the chicken explained how breakfast just didn’t measure up without the eggs she produced, the pig chuckled smartly, and quickly put an end to the matter.

The difference between us, said the pig to the chicken, is that you are interested in making breakfast a success, while I am outright committed.  You will live to lay many eggs on many days, but I?  I must make the ultimate sacrifice for breakfast.

Similarly, leaders must always choose between being interested in their business or being committed to it.  And so in closing, I leave you with perhaps the most meaningful Meyer quote in the entire book.  One that speaks to me so personally, I almost wonder whether he has been inside my brain as I have pondered career opportunities and choices throughout my life.

“Often [during a particularly trying period in his career], I wanted to throw in the towel, and I fantasized about traveling back to 1985 . . . But I had chosen the appropriate path and I knew there was no going back.”

Meyer is defining that point where your journey offers you two options.  And without making comparisons to Frost, instead of having to choose a path, I suggest you must choose your level of commitment.


Is it time to turn around and start over, returning to a simpler, easier time?  Or is it time to commit and see what greatness might lay ahead?  Avalanches, like fire, can have a cleansing effect, a clarifying impact on your vision and your chances of making it a reality.  Are you committed?  If not, isn’t it time to do something powerful for yourself?